- Dan Rafael, ESPN Senior Writer
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Of the fights on Saturday's HBO tripleheader (9:30 p.m. ET/PT) at the MGM Grand at Foxwoods in Mashantucket, Conn., the one that most intrigues me is junior featherweight prospect Luis Orlando Del Valle taking on battle-tested former two-division champion Vic Darchinyan of Australia.
Puerto Rico's Del Valle (16-0, 11 KOs), 25, is a fine prospect with a lot of hunger and a fun fighting style. He is supposed to defeat Darchinyan and add that first big name to his résumé. That's why his co-promoters, Lou DiBella and Gary Shaw, made the fight.
But I don't think you can ever count out Darchinyan (37-5-1, 27 KOs), who fights as hard as he can all the time. The former flyweight and junior bantamweight titlist isn't what he once was. He's 36, has been in a lot of tough fights and has lost two in a row (both bantamweight title fights) and three of his past five. Moreover, he was at his best at 112 and 115 pounds, but he has been unable to hang with the best at 118. Now he is moving up in weight again, to 122 pounds, to face Del Valle.
Clearly, the odds are against Darchinyan. But he has power -- well, he did at 112 and 115, anyway -- and he's aggressive. And Del Valle is taking a quantum leap up in opposition.
Darchinyan, always confident before his fights, should be in the trash talk Hall of Fame. So it's no shock that he believes he can teach Del Valle a lesson.
"I'm the ultimate road warrior," said Darchinyan, whose decision loss to bantamweight titlist Shinsuke Yamanaka in April came in Japan. "I've traveled all over the world to scrap with the best fighters in my division. This Saturday will be no different when I step in the ring with Del Valle. I'm looking forward to giving him his first loss while I get myself back into title contention. Del Valle better be ready for a rough fight because I'm coming hard every round."
Then Darchinyan took a shot at Shaw, who promotes Darchinyan but also has a stake in Del Valle.
"Gary should not have invested his money in Del Valle," Darchinyan said, "because it was a bad investment and he is going to lose his money."
Shaw is playing things even-handed on the fight.
"Right now, Darchinyan has his back against the wall and he's going to give every ounce of energy to win this fight," Shaw said. "Del Valle is a great young fighter with a tremendous amount of talent, but he's never been in the ring with an experienced fighter like Vic. I'm expecting an exciting fight this Saturday between these two and I won't be surprised if Darchinyan comes out victorious."
Said DiBella, "Del Valle has his hands full."
Del Valle's best win came in his most recent fight, a 10-round unanimous decision against the skillful Christopher Martin in April. Darchinyan, with his brawling mentality, is a much different fighter than the slick Martin. Del Valle knows he will have to be on his game to turn back Darchinyan.
"I know we have a tough fight. We're going to prove that we belong with the big boys," he said. "We have no doubt we will come out with the win. I want to keep moving forward to the goal, which is to win one of those [world title] belts. [On Saturday] people will know who 'Orlandito' Del Valle is.
"I was born for this. Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be boxer."
DiBella said a Del Valle win could lead to the fighter being matched with Puerto Rican countryman and former titlist Wilfredo Vazquez Jr., assuming Vazquez defeats Jonathan Oquendo on Oct. 6. DiBella said he has talked to Top Rank's Bob Arum, Vazquez's co-promoter, about the possible fight.
Del Valle said he isn't paying any attention to future fights, not with Darchinyan sitting in front of him.
"I'm looking at him as the toughest fight of my career so far," Del Valle said. "I'm not taking him lightly and I'm not looking past him. He comes with experience, but we know we belong at this level. We're going to prove it. I'm hoping he comes in the best shape of his life, and we will give the fans what they deserve. I like to entertain.
"Vic Darchinyan likes to come forward and give good fights. It will be a lot of give and take. I've been following him ever since I've been boxing. I always watched his fights and I know he always puts on a good show. So any talk about some other fight, it doesn't distract me."
In the main event, super middleweight prospects Edwin Rodriguez (21-0, 14 KOs) of Worcester, Mass., will face Jason Escalera (13-0-1, 12 KOs) of Hoboken, N.J.
Opening the tripleheader, Newark, N.J., welterweight prospect Alex Perez (16-0, 9 KOs) will meet fringe contender Antonin Decarie (26-1, 7 KOs) of Quebec. Perez-Decarie was put together on relatively short notice when former light heavyweight titlist Zsolt Erdei of Hungary withdrew from a fight with South Africa's Isaac Chilemba after Erdei suffered two broken ribs during training camp.